As we head into the 2023 edition of the Textile Bowl, today we sit down with Steven from “Backing the Pack” to talk about NC State and what to expect on Saturday.
1) Like Clemson, NC State isn’t having the season fans hoped for. What has been the story for the Pack this season? What good things have you seen and what bad things have you seen?
After struggling offensively last year while churning through four different quarterbacks (not recommended), we’d all hoped that bringing in Brennan Armstrong and his former offensive coordinator at UVA, Robert Anae, would make for a solid turnaround. Instead, not a lot changed from a production standpoint. Armstrong clearly isn’t talented enough as a passer to elevate an offense around him, but in his defense, he also can’t catch the ball for this receiving corps, which has had problems with drops all year.
Giving way to MJ Morris at quarterback created an initial spark but the offense fizzled again against Duke. I think we were all a little in denial about the amount of talent drop-off on the offensive side over the last couple of years, but this season has made that impossible to ignore. Scoring a combined 13 points, using two different QBs, against Louisville and Duke, will do that.
On the bright side, Kevin Concepcion has emerged as a really solid receiver as a true freshman, and the defense has been solid for the most part despite losing a lot of talent. This defense has had a knack for giving up more explosive plays than we’re used to, but there’s still lots of talent up front, and Payton Wilson is having a huge year at linebacker.
2) Saturday’s game in Raleigh is homecoming at NC State. Having done Clemson Homecoming and Homecoming at a few other schools, I love to know what all traditions different colleges have for Homecoming. For any Clemson fans making the trip to Raleigh, what all should they check out?
There are always a number of events on campus throughout this week, and if there are any Clemson fans rolling in early Friday, they could check out the annual Homecoming parade that hits Hillsborough Street that evening. You can probably get a good sense of the vibe with a visit to Hillsborough Street regardless, though. Hitting the main university drag is something I like to do when I go to road games, maybe hit a local landmark or two. (Mitch’s Tavern would be a good one in State’s case.)
3) Throughout my life as a Clemson fan, then student, now alumnus, the Textile Bowl has ran hot and cold as far as a rivalry. When I first started as a student at Clemson in 2012 it was really just another ACC game that happened to have a trophy attached to it. Then from 2016 to now it has really become a heated rivalry again, from a Clemson perspective. How do NC State fans view Clemson as a rival? Have Clemson’s early season struggles taken some of the heat out of this year’s game?
My personal history goes back just a tad farther, but I agree that this game has elevated on the rivalry list since 2016. Before that we didn’t really have the shenanigans that go with a good rivalry, but it’s been colorful of late, what with Bradley Chubb becoming a towel thief, or Dave Doeren complaining about laptops and Clemson clapping back, to some pretty compelling games on the field. It’s a lot spicier than it used to be.
I don’t think Clemson’s season takes much out of the game, just like we’d still want to beat UNC to death even if the Heels came in 0-11.
4) What is one thing you think NC State needs to do to win on Saturday? And what is part of the game where you think Clemson has the advantage?
Maybe don’t throw an interception this week? NC State’s quarterbacks have thrown one in four straight games—and have more picks than TD passes on the year—which is rather unhelpful. I don’t see NC State running the ball very well given that that’s been a liability all season and Clemson has a substantial advantage in the trenches when the Wolfpack has the ball. State did some shuffling there this week but it’s doubtful that makes a noticeable difference.
5) Who have been NC State’s best players this season?
Payton Wilson will be in the conversation for defensive player of the year in the ACC, as he’s been incredibly productive even by his high standards: 81 tackles and 7.5 TFL through seven games. Kevin Concepcion has been the Pack’s only standout receiver and its most consistent producer on the offensive side; he’s gone for over 100 yards receiving in a couple games and leads the team with 410 yards overall.
6) Any predictions for the game?
It’s difficult to find much optimism after the abysmal performance at Duke, so I’ll go with Clemson in a mostly sweat-free 27-13 win.
You can follow BTP on Twitter @backingthepack.